Dr. Brittany Hajek ’07, ’09E, ’12E, ’18DE, ’19E earns fifth degree from Doane
Wearing a cap and gown has become a familiar occasion for Dr. Brittany Kozisek Hajek ’07, ’09E, ’12E, ’18DE, ’19E. The Norris Middle School principal joined select company in December by earning her fifth degree from Doane.
Hajek became the fifth person to earn five degrees from Doane, earning all degrees within the College of Education. Ironically enough, one of the other select few to earn five degrees from Doane, Dr. John Schwartz ’02, ’05E, ’08E, ’14E, ’18DE, currently serves as Hajek’s boss as Superintendent of Norris School District.
As Norris’ Middle School Principal, Hajek oversees the organizational, strategic, and instructional leadership of the school. She also oversees teacher evaluations, student discipline, academic programs, and serves on the administrative team to provide oversight of the district.
Hajek, who has risen up the ranks in education, has served as a middle school math teacher in Bellevue and Seward, a district instructional specialist in Seward, and assistant principal at Norris Elementary and Intermediate School prior to being named Norris Middle School Principal last year.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back to work with middle school students, it is where my heart lies,” Hajek says.
Her passion for education didn’t come naturally at first, despite her mom’s best efforts. Brittany’s mom, Dr. Julie Kozisek ’76, has been an education professor at Doane for the last 40 years and will be retiring in May.
Hajek first went to Doane to major in math, unsure of where that might lead her professionally. After her freshman year, Julie nudged Brittany to take EDU 211 (Practicum I) to let her find out if she would have any interest in teaching.
After taking the course, Brittany was still not convinced teaching was for her, but her mom made one final effort to see if she might change her mind.
During interterm the same year, Julie asked Jill Conrad, a math teacher at Crete High School, to see if Brittany could work in her classroom during those three weeks. Brittany would be able to see what the day-to-day was like for a math teacher, essentially serving as a teaching assistant. She worked one-on-one with students, worked with them in small groups, helped Jill with her lessons, and helped grade assignments.
That experience proved to be a turning point for Brittany. She then continued with her math major at Doane but added a teaching endorsement.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2007, knowing she wanted to pursue a career in education, Hajek wasted no time jumping into a master’s program. She earned her first master’s degree in 2009, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She went on to earn a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in 2012, a Doctorate of Education in 2018, and an Education Specialist - advanced degree in 2019.
“I believe in the programs Doane has,” she says. “They really help build you into a quality educator. Now being in the position I’m in, I get to see and experience professionals coming out of different colleges and universities and I know that Doane is top-notch in the product they deliver. The way people look at Doane programs is on a high pedestal so to be a part of that was important to me as well.”
Hajek says she never envisioned earning five college degrees, but once she entrenched herself in the graduate programs there was a constant feeling to want to continue to learn more.
“Two of my top strengths I learned from the educational leadership program was that I’m a learner and achiever,” Hajek says. “I love to learn so it made sense that I needed to continue to be a learner, go to classes and get those degrees so I could better myself as well.”
One of Brittany’s biggest supporters throughout this educational journey, to no surprise, was her mom.
“I’ve always looked to her for guidance and when I needed suggestions,” Brittany says. “She’s always been someone who has pushed me. She’s been extremely influential along my path.”
“Brittany and I have a wonderful relationship,” Julie adds. “I see her as my daughter, a colleague, and as a close friend.
“There have been times she has sent me jokes about how she is turning into her mother but she will say ‘I can only hope I will turn into my mother.’ That makes me very proud.”
After 16 years (with one short break) of being a college student, Hajek will now have a lot more free time on her hands.
“It’s bittersweet to be done,” she says. “I was getting pretty good at being a full-time student and professional so to have all of this extra time now will be different.”